Peter Lawrie grabbed his second top 10 finish of the season as Korean teen sensation Noh Seung-yul secured a dramatic one-stroke victory over countryman K.J. Choi at the Maybank Malaysian Open thanks to an audacious final-hole birdie.
Lawrie closed with a four under par 68 to share 10th place on eight under par. Had he made a par instead of a quintuple bogey 10 at the par-five 10th on Friday, the Dubliner might have been battling for his second European Tour victory.
Lawrie’s consolation prize was a cheque for €26,488 and he is now 54th in the Race to Dubai standings with €73,104 from five starts.
The US$2 million tournament was a huge success for Asia as Noh produced the unlikeliest of birdies at the par five 634-yard 18th hole to close out thwith a final round four-under-par 68 and a 14-under-par 274 winning aggregate.
“This is more special than my first win,” said Noh, who was triumphant at the 2008 Midea China Classic en route to becoming the Asian Tour’s Rookie of the Year that season.
Standing on the 634-yard 18th tee with a one stroke advantage over Choi, Soren Hansen, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Rhys Davies, Noh hooked his drive wildly onto the 10th fairway. With Choi and Hansen playing in front of him, and Aphibarnrat and Davies playing alongside him, Noh was under huge pressure as he fired his drive miles left off the tee.
His three wood second shot also stayed well left, flying over the Maybank hospitality unit to the left of the 18th green and eventually coming to rest on the concrete cart path, some 30 yards from the green. As spectators flocked around his ball, Choi, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, tied Noh on 13-under with a five foot birdie putt and pile the pressure on Noh.
After being granted relief from the cart path, the young Korean stayed cool under pressure and hit a sublime chip shot over the left-hand bunker to within 18 inches of the hole to send the crowd into rapturous applause before tapping in for his second Asian Tour and maiden European Tour success.
“It was fun competing with the top players in the world and defeating someone I look up to. When K.J. birdied the last hole and became the co-leader, I thought that if I parred (18) I would get into the play-off. And if I lost in the play-off, it wouldn’t disappoint me too much because I was competing against K.J. And if he won, then I would also be happy because he is from the same country.
“It was so hot and I wasn’t in the right mind to think. I just kept it simple and I wanted to get it on the green on 18 and make par. The fact that K.J. made birdie and I was able to come out with a win is very special to me.”
The experienced Choi, winner of the Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia last October, tipped his cap to his young compatriot, saying Noh was truly a star in the making. “I’m not disappointed at all,” said Choi, who signed off with a 69.
“I played well and tried my best. My hat off to Seung-yul as he played well and had a fantastic round. I’m happy with how my game has improved and I have a lot to look forward to. The pin positions were tough but I held my game and managed to be in contention. Noh played brilliantly and I have no complaints.
“He is one of the most powerful young talents coming up. The way that he controls and hits the ball is like no other and I think he has a very bright future. He’s got a very good heart as well. I feel like he is going to develop in all aspects and in the near future he is going to be on the world stage,” added Choi, who is an honorary member of the Asian Tour.
Co-overnight leader Kiradech, chasing a maiden Asian Tour victory, fought hard but eventually settled for a share of third place with Hansen and Davies on 276. The Thai and Davies signed off with a 71 while Hansen shot a 70.
“I guess that 15-under would have been the winning score. I was 13-under at one point but bogeyed the eighth and I birdied again after the turn and thought I was on course to a win. But I made another bogey on 13 which was disappointing,” said the 20-year-old.
“The win was there for me because I was playing very well. I had many up and downs but I struggled with my putting on the back nine. I seem to always lose it on the last day, I don’t know why,” he added.
Leading final round scores
274 - Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 69-70-67-68
275 - K.J. Choi (KOR) 67-70-69-69
276 - Soren Hansen (DEN) 70-67-69-70, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 68-69-68-71, Rhys Davies (WAL) 65-69-71-71
277 - Danny Willett (ENG) 72-69-68-68
278 - Johan Edfors (SWE) 69-69-69-71, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 66-71-69-72
279 - Jason Knutzon (USA) 73-67-72-67
280 - Mark Brown (NZL) 71-71-72-66, Peter Lawrie (IRL) 69-72-71-68, Angelo Que (PHI) 70-67-72-71, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 68-75-66-71
281 - Shingo Katayama (JPN) 76-69-68-68, Alejandro Canizares (ESP) 67-69-71-74, Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 65-72-71-73